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BlobCat For Nintendo Switch - A Love Letter To ChuChu Rocket!

Like many Dreamcast fans I consider myself a huge fan of ChuChu Rocket!, and I joke that it's the best free game I’ve ever received - we Europeans had it sent as reward for signing up for the online service Dreamareana. Returning home from school one day to find a brand new Dreamcast game out the blue, thanks to Sega, was quite brilliant.

While it offered a solid and enjoyable single player experience, the 4 player battles that ChuChu Rocket! offered still rank as some of the best gaming memories I have; and it held the honour of being the only game I ever attempted to play online during the contemporary Dreamcast era.
My love of ChuChu Rocket! has always fuelled thoughts on why such a seemingly popular and well loved classic never really left the Dreamcast to find a home elsewhere, with a Gameboy Advance port and a fairly brief appearance on iOS being the game's entire post Dreamcast legacy.

It seemed like there was a void left by Sega, never to be filled with a true sequel. Step forward BlobCat for the Nintendo Switch. On first glance you could be forgiven for assuming it has some kind of official link to ChuChu Rocket! or Sega. For instance, the description on the Switch eShop reads: ‘The BlobCats are after the DiceMice! Place arrows to guide the DiceMice to the Micehole!’ This shows the clear inspiration that Christian Wasser and the team behind BlobCat (developer BySamb) took from the beloved Dreamcast title.

And it's something they don't hide when discussing what motivated them to create a love letter to one of their favourite Dreamcast games:

"First of all: yes BlobCat is a spiritual successor to ChuChu Rocket!. We're not members of the original team, but we loved ChuChu Rocket! as teens. A little over two years ago, we played ChuChu Rocket! again on the Dreamcast and wondered why there never was a sequel, since the gameplay has got so much potential left. That's why we made one!"
- Christian Wasser, BySamb
So, how does BlobCat play? Well in short, pretty great. A quick disclaimer here: I’ve not been able to play the versus or multiplayer modes yet. The local multiplayer I sadly don’t have anyone to test with in this modern world of adulthood gamer; and unlike the DC original there are no bots or AI opponents you can practise or play against. Attempts to get an online game going were sadly met with empty lobbies so I had no way of testing this mechanic.

What I can say though, is that loading up the multiplayer with the controllers available to me it’s clear it closely matches the inspiration's successful formula.
Disclaimers aside, I am a massive fan of the work Christian and his team have put into the game. Anyone with even a fleeting past with ChuChu Rocket! will be instantly at home with the game's controls and will have no real need for the tutorial, with arrow directions being on the right directional stick and the characters still turning right at obstacles they hit. The single player puzzle mode feels like an upgrade over it’s inspiration, due to the greater variety of settings and fantastic accompanying music. Which perfectly treads the puzzler balance of being catchy but remaining in the background to the action.
Completing a maze in one of the 6 zones available at launch gives you a ranking of 1 to 3 stars. The more efficient you've been, the higher the ranking. This adds to the replay value for the perfectionists out there. With Christian himself telling me that the vast majority of mazes can be completed with just a single arrow needing to be placed, it allows the player the opportunity to either move on or aim for a better score.

Over the last few days I’ve returned several times to previously beaten arenas in such of higher rankings and particularly enjoy the process of figuring out the ideal route to completion. Doing so will earn you an achievement sticker for the collection book; which while entirely cosmetic was motivation enough for me.
The game itself has got a nice crisp visual style. Every world has a unique theme which directly impacts gameplay considerations. The first, merely dubbed ‘Kitchen,’ is effectively a retro homage to ChuChu Rocket!, complete with distinctive tiles from the original. It's a straight forward 'navigate around the walls and cats' to the escape point kind of thing - you know the drill if you're a veteran of the ChuChu of old. The next worlds of ‘Wild West’ and ‘Space’ begin to add in environment themed obstacles that showcase the team's true ideas. Wild West has mine carts on tracks that need positioning to either help your mice or hinder the cats. Space has sci-fi style doors to open with pressure pads, so you need to navigate to these before reaching the exit.
Forest is up next, which features actual wooden directional signs to mess with and consider, meaning the mice can now be directed left. Finally, ‘Snow’ brings the added caveat that the obstructions can only be smashed by the cats, meaning you begin to start directing the danger towards those you are trying to save.

The mazes have a nice amount of natural variety to them, moving between saving multiple mice, or groups starting on opposite sides; right down to classic ChuChu Rocket! style guiding a single mouse around and through an army of cats. The level of variation in stages and mission types always keeps the experiencing from becoming stale.
All in all, BlobCat is a wholly enjoyable and impressively designed homage to one of the Dreamcast’s most fondly remembered titles (incidentally ChuChu Rocket! ranked 20th in the top 200 DC games poll we ran in 2016). With it’s sub £8 price point I already feel like the game has warranted the cost; and can only think you'd get more value if unlike me, you have a group of players (or just actual friends!) who will fancy a game. I could see this being one of the games you'd turn to on gaming nights, the way many of us used to turn to ChuChu Rocket! while sat in front of our old CRT televisions.

It seems especially perfect for table top play too and who wouldn't want to capture the charm and fun of the Dreamcast, but on the move?
For more information on BlobCat, visit the game's official website here. The game is available on Steam and Nintendo Switch and costs £8 (may vary depending on your location).

What do you think? Do the ChuChu Rocket! influenced trappings of BlobCat appeal to you? Let us know in the comments, on Twitter or in our Facebook group.

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2 comments:

Tom Charnock said...

Nice review Kev - if I still had a Switch I'd most likely buy this for some decent local multiplayer!

Jennifer McMurray said...

Awesome. This one flew past my radar. I'll definitely be picking this up once I get the chance.

I'm just kind of debating on whether to get the Steam version or the Switch version. I hope Limited Run Games makes a physical release for Switch, as that would easily put the Switch version over the top for me. :)